A recommendation coming to city council is requesting two potential Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) sites be approved for public consultation, with one of them inside the 500-metre buffer zone of a downtown core.
With more than 25 CTS sites initially identified, according to a staff report coming to council on March 30, two have been found to most meet a criteria checklist created from information collected in the provincial CTS application guide, the Meridian CTS planning study and input from internal and external stakeholders.
Looking at 12 criteria — including a 10-minute walking distance from the area of need, accessibility by public transit; large enough to accommodate wraparound services, outside of core areas and buffer zone; and proximity to schools, parks, child care centres and residential areas — 15 Easton St.and 8 Oxford St.are recommended for potential sites.
The Easton Street property is one block east of the Delta intersection, and the building is 6,500 square feet. The only criteria against the property is it is 14 minutes from the centre of the area of need.
The Oxford Street property has a building that is 3,000 square feet. The criteria against it are it is in the 500-metre buffer zone of the downtown core and is close to a residential area. The latter is not in the provincial CTS guide but was added for consideration.
The interim bylaw for the 500-metre buffer for sites outside the downtown core ended in 2020.
“There’s no predetermined outcome here,” Mayor Kathryn McGarry said.
“This is just really the next step in the process. It doesn’t mean that council’s going to decide on March 30 one side or the other, because this is really just the next step to request staff to go back and start the engagement process.”
The engagement process, through social media, newspaper advertisements and Engage Cambridge, would run from April to July if adopted, before coming back to council again for a decision.
McGarry said when it comes to a future decision, after taking in all of the community input, council could decide to move forward with one of the sites recommended, cast those aside and ask for some of the other options or decide on not having a CTS in the city.
The latter doesn’t sound like an option, as McGarry said she’s heard privately from residents who have changed their stance on CTS sites. Some that didn’t want a CTS in the city are seeing the need and the benefits now that Kitchener has opened its site, she said. She added BIAs and business owners in municipalities with CTS sites, such as Guelph, are seeing less discarded needles and open drug activity in their core areas.
“(Those people are) asking council to be open minded in order to try and provide a service that’s really going to benefit those individuals that are suffering from addiction, because it is a health issue. And that we’re going to try and facilitate services within the City of Cambridge that will also be beneficial to businesses and to individuals living in the area in order to cut down in the public using of injectable drugs that is still witnessed in our community.”
On the other hand, there are still detractors in the city.
"Cambridge already has enough problems with drugs, discarded drug paraphernalia and crime, and I do not feel the a CTS is a viable or compassionate solution," said resident Pauline Brittenden in an email to council.
While a CTS may get within the buffer zone of the downtown core, McGarry still isn’t sold on having one in a downtown core. She believes having them close to a high area of need is sufficient.
"I don’t see that changing right now,” McGarry said.
Bill Doucet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times